Custody sergeant accused of 'gross failings'

The custody sergeant in charge of a mentally ill man who died at his police station has been accused of "gross failings" after CCTV showed that the officer did not check on the detainee for almost 15 minutes, despite giving contradictory evidence under oath.

Sean Rigg, 40, died on the concrete floor of the caged area of Brixton police station in August 2008, after being restrained by three officers on the street less than an hour earlier.

Police Sergeant Paul White told the jury at Southwark Coroner's Court how he had carried out an initial risk assessment of Mr Rigg while he was locked in the police van for 10 minutes. He told the inquest that he had been satisfied by what he saw and what the arresting officers told him that Mr Rigg was better off in the van because he was "violent but medically okay". The sergeant gave the same evidence to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in March 2009.

In fact the CCTV showed that Sergeant White never left the custody area and the first time he saw Mr Rigg was when he was lying on the floor of the caged area. By this point the jury was told that Mr Rigg was unresponsive, apart from opening his eyes occasionally.

Shortly afterwards PS White, who was responsible for the care and well-being of Mr Rigg at the police station, was heard on the CCTV audio telling the forensic medical examiner, the police doctor, that "he's laid down on the floor out there, feigning unconsciousness".

"Why would you tell the doctor that Mr Rigg was feigning unconsciousness when you didn't know what was wrong with him? Would you agree that this was grossly negligent of you," asked Leslie Thomas QC, asking questions on behalf of the Rigg family.

"At this stage, I can't answer that Sir," he replied.

"Do you see accept that providing history to the FME was entirely misleading?" "I accept that it could have been misconstrued as misleading," he eventually agreed.

During a terse exchange between the officer and Mr Thomas, during which Sergeant White was unable to recall much of what he did or said that night, the officer had to accept that much of what he had told the jury under oath was not in fact true.

The jury was then shown further CCTV footage when Sergeant White goes back to check on Mr Rigg a few minutes later, by which time the officer says he was very concerned because the detainee was cold to touch, unresponsive even pain, but yet was still handcuffed and lying face-down.

The custody sergeant is then alleged to have said "died" to the FME, as he walked passed him on the way back from having checked on Mr Rigg. The sergeant could not properly hear the audio recording or recall the incident.

He did agree that he then said: "Can you get an ambulance, he's either fitting or feigning unconsciousness, he's been very violent outside."

An ambulance is not called for another three minutes, and the officers do not appear to start CPR for another 12 minutes after that.

PS White was accused by Mr Thomas of failing in his duty of care to Mr Rigg as he never asked the arresting officers about the restraint and whether they had "gone over the top".

"[As the custody officer] you're the gatekeeper, the protector of anyone who goes into police custody, is that right?" asked Mr Thomas.

"I agree, I am there as an independent person and my job is to look out for the prisoners," said PS White. "Bearing that in mind… if you have a man in front of you, you've got to ask the question, what have you done to him? Why didn't you ask your officers?"

"I was waiting for him to be in front of me at the custody desk..."

"You failed in your duty didn't you? If this isn't the grossest failings of a custody officer's duty, what is it?"

"No sir," responded the sergeant.

He was also accused of failing in his duty because he did not order a sweater or blanket for Mr Rigg for around half an hour – despite the fact he was half naked, lying on a concrete floor, and cold to touch.

"I cannot explain Sir but it is certainly not because I was wanting to treat him poorly," said PS White.

The officer will be questioned by the jury tomorrow.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Heskey's aim has improved since the end of his English football career

Long after his career in English football has ended, Emile Heskey's impotency in front of goal remains an object of ridicule.

Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam